Friday, November 27, 2015

A Fun App for Learning to Identify Plants and Animals

Earlier this week I shared a couple of apps designed to help you get your students involved in learning about nature by going outside and documenting their observations. It's not always practical to get outside. Your geography will also limit the number of plants and animals students can see on a walking tour of your school grounds and their neighborhoods. Therefore, I want to introduce another app for learning about nature.

Classify It! is a free iPad app designed to help elementary school and middle school students learn to classify plants and animals. In the app students are given a question and shown a selection of plants and animals. Respond to the question students have to correctly identify the plants and animals that answer the question. For example, on the second level of the game students are asked to identify the animals that are mammals and they then have to select the mammals from a gallery of pictures. If students need help understanding the question or prompt on a level, they can tap the question mark icon to receive a bit of clarification.

Creature Cards provide an incentive to students to complete each level of Classify It! with 100% accuracy. When students complete a level with 100% accuracy they receive Creature Cards. Creature Cards are essentially trading cards that feature a plant or animal picture along with some information about it. Students can make as many attempts as they need in order to complete a level with 100% accuracy.

25 Guides to Teaching U.S. History

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Over the last couple of years Storyboard That has been steadily expanding their product offerings and their free teacher guides. The teacher guides have been developed by classroom teachers using the Storyboard That services.

The latest set of Storyboard That teacher guides are about U.S. History. A total of 25 U.S. History teacher guides are now available on Storyboard That. The guides are broken into four main eras; pre-Colonial - 1776, Independence to Civil War, Reconstruction to WWII, and post-WWII. You will find units for major events and themes within each era.

Applications for Education
The Storyboard That U.S. History teacher guides make use of the free and premium aspects of Storyboard That. Even if you don't have access to the premium features, you can still glean some good ideas from these guides. For example, the guide to teaching Federalism includes some excellent visuals that could be the basis for creating your own comparison charts. The visuals on the Constitutional Convention provide a good summary of the proposed plans of governance. The essential questions listed with each guide are excellent for facilitating classroom conversations.

Three Ways to Share Bundles of Links With Students

Trying to get all of your students to the same set of websites at the same time can be a frustrating experience for you and for them. Just a mis-typed character or two can create a frustrating experience for everyone in the room. One way to avoid this situation is to post all of your links on one course webpage or in a blog post. Another solution is to use a link bundling service that will group all of your links together into one package. Then instead of sending out a bunch of individual links you can just send one link that will open all of the bundled links for your students. Here are three services that you can use for just that purpose.

LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.

Bitly is one URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and it offers good statistics about the use of your links. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles can be created collaboratively if you invite other Bitly users to bundle links with you. The nice thing about Bitly is that you can view how many times a link has been used. So if you have 25 students and the link has only been used 20 times, you know that at five students aren't where you need them to be.

FatURL is a handy little tool to use when you need to share a group of links to someone. To share a group of links through FatURL just copy and paste or type URLs into the bundle box. You can add comments to each link. After creating your bundle hit the share button to send it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Quick Reminder About Google's Advanced Search Menu

This evening on the FreeTech4Teachers Facebook page someone made the comment that Google removed the advanced search tools. That is not true. The reading level refinement tool is gone, but the rest of the advanced search tools are still available. To access the advanced search menu conduct an initial search then open the gear icon in the upper, right corner of the screen. See my screenshot below for an explanation.
Click image to view full size. 

5 Good Tools for Creating Visual Stories of Thanksgiving (Or any other gathering of friends and family)

The holiday season is full of family photo opportunities. My brothers and I took a bunch of pictures throughout our Thanksgiving Day today. If you're reading this blog there's a good chance that you and your students did the same (according to Google Analytics more than 80% of readers are in the U.S.). Those pictures can tell a story of your day and or of your family. The following tools are great for telling stories with pictures.

Thematic is a simple service designed for creating and sharing picture stories. Thematic allows you to display up to twenty pictures organized around a theme of your choosing. You can add a line or two of text to each image in your story. Your completed story is displayed in a vertically scrolling format with each of your images occupying all of the available space in your browser. Completed stories can be shared publicly or kept private. Each public story can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, email, or embedding into a webpage. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create a story on Thematic.



Earlier this year Adobe released a free iPad app called Adobe Slate. Adobe Slate is a free app that you can use to create image-based stories. Last month Adobe launched a browser-based version of Adobe Slate. The browser-based version of Adobe Slate is designed to help you create a visual story from the pictures on your desktop, from the web through a built-in Creative Commons search tool, from an Adobe online account, or from a Dropbox account. You start your story by importing a cover picture and writing story title. You then add pictures one-by-one and write captions for each. You can also write headlines for each image. One convenient feature of Adobe Slate is that the integrated image search tool will import Creative Commons attributions with the images you select. Adobe Slate has a dozen or so filters or themes that you can apply to your story. Completed stories can be published online through a variety of channels including Adobe’s platform, Facebook, or Twitter. Stories can also be embedded into a blog post.

Buncee is a nice tool that students can use to create multimedia stories. Students can use Buncee in the web browser on their computers or they can use Buncee's free iPad app to create multimedia stories. On Buncee students can create a visual story that is unveiled as a viewer scroll across the page. Buncee stories can also be set to play automatically when they are viewed. Students create their Buncee stories by adding custom background templates to Buncee slides. To each template students can add animations, pictures, text, drawings, and videos. Buncee provides a large gallery of media that students can use in their stories. Additionally, students can import media from their computers, from YouTube, from Vimeo, from Dropbox, from SoundCloud, and from Gooru. Completed Buncee projects can be viewed online and or saved as PDFs.


PicCollage is my go-to iPad and Android app for creating multimedia collages. It is a free app that allows you to quickly arrange pictures, video, text, and stickers into collages. From the app you can share your collage to Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, and many other file sharing services. You can also simply save your collage to your tablet's camera roll. A video tutorial on PicCollage is embedded below.


PicMonkey is a web-based tool for creating image collages. If you import your PicMonkey collage into ThingLink you can create a multimedia collage. I demonstrate that process in the video embedded below.